Throughout history human beings have wanted to better their situation. In many instances, this has meant moving from rural or suburban areas to cities and urban areas. The firm belief being that cities offer more opportunities for those who look for them. This is true today as well. According to the World Resources Institute over 60% of us will live in cities and urban areas by 2050. As cities grow, and the strain on resources and utilities rise, city planners will have to pay more and more attention to how this growth can be made sustainable – for the environment, and for the people and businesses living and operating in these cities.

Today’s cities are bigger than ever before. They are also more and more “resident” friendly. Urban gardens, green zones and walkways, all contribute to better quality of life for city dwellers. “The need and preferences of those who live in cities continue to change. People as well as corporations are using space differently, as reflected in co-working and the sharing economy to new transportation options enabled by technology, and there is an urgent need to understand the causes and effects of these shifts,” says Dr. Constantine Kontokosta, PE, FRICS.

Dr. Kontokosta is an expert on urbanization and technology and its impact on real estate. He adds that companies planning relocation or developing their portfolio strategy especially need to be on top of these changes. With talent being a strong imperative for most organizations, where people want to live will also have an influence on corporate location strategies.

Increased use of Internet of Things devices, (i.e. FitBit and the Apple Watch) enable better understanding of how and where shifts in the preferences and needs of urbanites will occur. Sensors in these devices can also aid in identifying trends such as peak travel times, preferred areas and for planning transportation systems. The quality and depth of this data varies across the world; in the US and Europe, this kind of data is much more available than in emerging countries.

Severe climate events across the globe are creating a need to be ever more aware of what can be done to reduce these impact of climate change. “Especially for cities that are located on the coastline, climate change can have significant impacts, since these areas are more vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels and other natural disasters. Increasing the resilience of cities, while actively reducing carbon emissions, is rapidly becoming a necessity to reduce risk and potential negative consequences for urban populations,” adds Dr. Kontokosta.

According to the “It takes a city: The case for collaborative climate action” report by CDP Worldwide, cities contribute about 75% of the world’s greenhouse emissions. However, cities are also uniquely positioned to leverage the opportunities afforded by their higher density. For example, improving public transport and making urban areas more walkable can have a significant influence on a city’s footprint. Similarly, making buildings more efficient can reduce emissions as well. Currently, 32% of global energy consumption and 25% of CO2 emissions produced by human beings can be attributed to buildings, according to the World Resources Institute’s “Accelerating Building Efficiency: Eight Actions for Urban Leaders” report. According to research by Dr. Kontokosta, buildings in dense urban areas, such as New York City, account for as much as three-quarters of total carbon emissions and energy consumption.

For corporate real estate (CRE), there are several lessons and opportunities as the movement to the urban areas solidifies around the globe. Understanding and gauging these shifting patterns will be imperative. Where and how different generations want to live will allow for better location strategy. Similarly, CRE can play an important part in reducing building emissions.

Want to learn more? Attend Dr. Kontokosta’s session at the CoreNet Global Summit in Philadelphia.